Sleep apnea is the disruption of breathing for 10 seconds or more, causing limited airflow to the lungs.
This causes undue strain on the heart which may lead to hypertension, irregular heart rhythm, heart attacks and strokes. In addition, it causes undue strain on the brain which makes the sleep process ineffective. Ineffective sleep process causes significant mood depression, memory difficulties, trouble with concentration and productivity, as well as significant sleepiness leading to accidents if left untreated.
Sleep apnea may be caused by the relaxation of the muscles in the throat while a person is asleep to a point where the airway collapses and becomes obstructed. When the airway closes, a person stops breathing and awakens to open the airway. Arousals usually only last a few seconds but disrupt a person’s sleep and makes it more difficult for a person to get into deep sleep and REM. This cycle of paused breathing occurs several times a night. Typically, the frequency of waking episodes is somewhere between 10 and 60. A person with severe OSA may have more than 100 waking episodes in a single night.